- Latest census results on critically endangered western lowlands gorillas have shown populations survival much more than ever expected, with around 125,000 found in the survey area in northern part of Republic of Congo.
Census results, released by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) at its congress in Edinburgh recently said survey which covered 47,000 sq km, found apes still very much alive and well in two adjacent forest areas, though adding many of the primates seem to be along Ebola Virus route.
Population densities ranged as high as eight individuals per square kilometre in one particularly rich forest patch, which ranks among the highest gorilla densities ever recorded, found WCS survey.
A combination of factors is said to be responsible for such high numbers of gorillas, according to survey results, which could include successful long-term conservation management of the Republic of Congo's protected areas, remoteness and inaccessibility of some of the key locations where gorillas were found, and a food-rich habitat.
Of a total population found in survey area, 73,000 came from Ntokou-Pikounda region and another 52,000 from Ndoki-Likouala area and a further previously unknown population of nearly 6,000 gorillas living in an isolated swamp.
However, WCS has warned that many of the gorillas live outside of existing protected areas, but said government of Congo has committed to creating a new national park in Ntokou-Pikounda region.
"We knew from our own observations that there were a lot of gorillas out there, but we had no idea there were so many," said Dr Emma Stokes, who led the survey efforts in Ndoki-Likouala.
"We hope that the results of this survey will allow us to work with the Congolese government to establish and protect the new Ntokou-Pikounda protected area."
Ms Jillian Miller, executive director of conservation group The Gorilla Organization commented: "The discovery of such a large population of western lowland gorillas is absolutely fantastic news for the sub-species and for conservationists, but we should be careful not to be too complacent," she said, adding that area where these large populations have been found is in path of Ebola virus, which has wiped out large numbers of Western lowland gorillas during past 25 years.
She also said trends were more important in conserving and protecting primates, adding that sadly trend for all gorilla sub-species, apart from mountain gorillas, has been a downturn in population figures.
Two principal threats to gorillas, according to WCS come from hunting for bushmeat and spread of the Ebola virus, which is equally lethal to gorillas as to humans. New census results have erased fears brought about 1980s survey, which estimated that about 100,000 remained, and numbers were since thought to have halved due to a number of factors.
Western lowland gorillas are one of four recognised gorilla sub-species, which also include mountain gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas, and cross river gorillas.
All are classified as "critically endangered" by IUCN, except eastern lowland gorillas, which are endangered.
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